As the nation celebrates Black History Month, Fort Verde State Historic Park gears up for its 10th annual Buffalo Soldier event Saturday, Feb. 18.
“Since February is officially recognized nationally as Black History Month, we created an event that pays tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers, particularly since we had two troops of the 10th Cavalry, Troops I and M, stationed at Fort Verde during the Indian Wars Period,” Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler.
According to Stubler, the event began as a way to both celebrate an important-but-overlooked aspect of U.S. history and pair it with the annual Pecan and Wine Festival.
“As part of our goal to increase community involvement at Fort Verde, we were excited about the opportunity to create another event,” Stubler added.
Once the Pecan and Wine Festival — which eventually became known as the Spring Heritage Festival — moved to March, Stubler decided to retain the Buffalo Soldier event’s character by keeping it in February.
Chaz Jackson, president of the Buffalo Soldiers of America Motorcycle Club, Arizona Chapter, will be coming up from the Phoenix area with some of the 25 men under his lead. 2017 is the seventh straight year Jackson has appeared at Fort Verde.
“We carry on the legacy,” Jackson said, adding that his group has holds events about twice a month, appearing to over 60 schools and 10 colleges throughout the state. “I have a master’s degree in Education. Most people — not to be insulting, but most Caucasians — aren’t that interested in any history other than their own.”
When they hear about the Buffalo Soldiers, however, Jackson said that people are “just enthralled.”
Coming to Camp Verde, Jackson added, is a treat each year — particularly because it is a predominantly white population. The opportunity to educate such people about the Buffalo Soldiers, once stationed on the very ground they call home, is one that cannot be passed up.
“We were the policemen of the West,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t John Wayne .... Buffalo Soldiers kept order in Tombstone and elsewhere.”